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Seizing the opportunity

27th November 2017

Attracting inward investment is a key priority for cities who are actively growing their communities and will be a particular focus for those who are developing transport hubs in line with HS2 plans.

To ensure that investment opportunities are readily available, cities must be able to clearly demonstrate the strength of their local economy, be that the demand for their office space, retail or residential spaces. Local authorities must also be able to demonstrate potential growth to investors in terms of their commercial and residential property values and how the local economy is resilient and not overly reliant on any one sector for its growth and success. This also feeds into the argument that a highly skilled workforce is an essential indicator of potential growth and therefore a demand for the schemes that investors are essentially financing.

Where transport hubs are being developed, cities need to also think about and plan for a well-functioning internal transport links to connect people from large transport hubs, such as HS2 stations, to their places of work so that ease of travel is consistently available at all times. Potential investors want to see that there is a clear long term strategic transport plan detailing how infrastructure will connect, how hubs will support future growth and how increased development will be met with increased capacity and not congestion.

Investors are keen to see that cities are supported with pro-active civic leadership and consistency around long-term priorities and growth opportunities. If there are frequent changes in an area’s leadership and constant refocusing of priorities, investors will undoubtedly be less confident in making a long-term commitment to the area for fear of being halted with the next change in leadership.

Simple things such as providing strategic frameworks, supplementary planning documents and clear design requirements also goes a long way towards encouraging investors to choose a particular area. If there is a lack of clarity around planning requirements, investors will not be able to clearly see how their investment will develop easily and this alone can often be enough to make them reconsider their options.

One of the biggest challenges for cities in attracting investment is having a thorough understanding of which investors are most likely to go for a particular scheme that aligns to their requirements and/or values. Having this understanding will help cities target the most appropriate investors for the schemes they are developing. For example, some investors will not get behind a scheme that needs to go through the OJEU process while some investors may have a particular focus on mixed-use or PRS schemes that are aimed at investing in the local community. Local authorities need to be prepared to take an active role and use their own assets if they need to in securing investment into their communities to enable growth and value. One to one sessions with investors in their home territory can be useful in building relationships and can often form the basis of an investor travelling to an area to begin discussions around a scheme.

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